When I was a kid, nothing was more important than playing outside. My family lived in northern New Jersey, near the New York border, and the Appalachian Trail angled through was was basically our back yard; I spent some of the happiest moments of my childhood running through the woods with my dog in tow. And though we eventually moved to the more concrete-friendly environs of the Bay Area in California, I still spent countless hours riding my bike, exploring creeks, camping with my Boy Scout troops, and just generally exploring the outdoors.
I wanted my own children to experience those joys, and I’m happy to say they spend a lot of time exploring here in rural New Hampshire — but for a number of reasons, outdoor play isn’t the universal rite of passage it used to be, to the point where we have organizations like Play Outside dedicated to preserving it. If you think that’s as unfortunate as I do, you should be a fan of the Okee Dokee Brothers — and you’ll be excited to hear about their plans to spend a month canoeing down the Mississippi River while writing songs for their next album.
I was certainly excited — and I knew I needed to talk to the Brothers about their plans, their music, and what makes all of it special. Here’s what we discussed.
Let’s start off by talking about how you decided to enter the world of family music.
Justin Lansing: Well, we kind of fell into it. We’d been traveling around the nation as part of a bluegrass band, and it was awesome — it was really fun. But we eventually realized that six people was too many to travel with, and Joe and I wanted to start our own thing — something different.
One thing we’d been successful with, on a whim, was playing for kids in low-income communities — places like homeless shelters, daycares, soup kitchens. We thought if we developed that part of our act, so to speak, it might be something we could do full-time, and so we started writing songs in the absurd crazy styles that are accepted in kids’ music, and we just went for it, you know?
Joe Mailander: Yeah, we were kind of hooligans who would go around playing bluegrass for whoever would listen, and we started a non-profit organization that was funded through donations and grants, and we did a lot of free concerts through that. Continue reading